13 July 2011

get to the point.

Tufte criticizes PowerPoint for it insistence on a single model for presentation which fails to adapt to a diversity of information. In failing to adapt, the information is compromised and bullet points substitute for substance. Minutia trumps meaning. How are we as architecture students held to standards of presentation that fail our greater intentions? What is demanded of us regardless of the specific content of our work? How does this work for or against us?

Tufte seems to suggest that the ‘pitch culture’ is a hazard to greater knowledge. He shows, in fact, how the meeting ‘pitch’ sold bad information to NASA executives, ultimately leading to grave human loss. In our experience, presentations are very much rooted is this same ‘pitch culture.’ Buzz words, spin, inflection and performance often times speak louder about our projects then the drawings themselves. Perhaps more prevalent, a poor pitch person can not sell a good project. How have you witnessed this phenomenon? Knowing that this condition is not exclusive to architectural education (it will continue to prevail while pushing ideas and courting clients) how does a mastery of this skill to pitch factor into your own experience? Is this as diabolical as Tufte suggests? What are the ground rules or foundation lessons in our architectural pitch culture?

The relative amount of information included or excluded from a slide, chart or graph bears much of Tufte’s criticism in the analysis of PowerPoint. As architects, we are not fond of overlong written explanations. In fact, we are told many time that architects simply do not read the text at all. They just look at the pictures. What does Tufte’s opinion mean to us? Why do we value brevity and is this at odds with the reading’s analysis? We are all familiar with the phrase less is more in formal reasoning. Is this true of presentation information, as well?

We have already discussed somewhat the notion that images in isolation are relatively less explanatory then comparisons drawn from multiple images side by side. Tufte agrees with us, rejecting the notion of conventional PowerPoint teaching that one idea per slide is always best. Other then showing two images simultaneously, what are ways that we can in our presentation draw conclusions through comparison? How can we relate dynamic information? How do stagnant images communicate to an audience? When are they appropriate? When are they not?

Tufte includes and amusing illustration of a jar of PowerPoint Phluff. These are the add-ons, ‘features’ and other imagery that add pizzazz, but no meaning. They dilute the information, boring the audience, which in turn requires more Phluff to stimulate a drained interest. We surely have out own variety of architectural presentation fluff. What have you witnessed that would fall in this category? How was this fluff received by the class or jury? When is fluff useful and when is fluff for fluff’s sake?

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